Curacao: The Best Gay Destination in the Caribbean. Period
Yes, Blue Curacao Is Made Here
Going to Curacao without a trip to the Mansion Chobolobo is like visiting Napa Valley without going to a vintner.
This is the site of Blue Curacao Liqueur Factory. There is a mini-museum that explains how this most interesting of liqueurs evolved. The island isn’t conducive to most agriculture (which explains all those boats bringing produce from Venezuela on the mainland). One enterprising Spanish colonist tried to grow Valencia oranges, but they were hard and bitter -- so much so that even the goats couldn’t down them.
Then, through one of those fortuitous discoveries that mark the history of distilled spirits, someone discovered that, mixed with sugar, the peel of these local plants could be turned into a distinctive-tasting beverage. A Jewish family perfected the process, and, given the blue coloring -- voila! -- Blue Curacao was born.
What I didn’t know until I visited the distillery was that the "blue" variety was only one of several. Taking advantage of the very, very low "direct from the factory" prices, I loaded up on Chocolate, Coffee, Rum, Raisin and, of course, Blue. I confess that almost all of them are now gone, but they remain a beautiful memory. Oh, and I should add that many of these flavors are not available widely, if at all, in the United States.
One very important caveat: There are other distilleries that market "Blue Curacao" but they are not actually distilled on the island. Look for the distinctively shaped bottle and the words "The Genuine Senior (flavor) Curacao."
When ATV Really Means All Terrain
When it’s time to get out and explore much of the island around Willemstad, the most fun way to do has to be via Eric’s ATV Adventures. Located on the outskirts of town, this funky depot for all-terrain vehicles will outfit you with your own ATV, helmet and instructions. What you bring is some courage and clothes upon which you don’t mind having mud splattered.
My group took a long trip through an amazing range of terrain that ranged from modest suburbs to the tallest hill on the island, to a mud flat around a series of estuaries.
What was most impressive, however, had to be an isolated farm where aloe and ostriches were raised. The juxtaposition of these two products pretty well signifies the multitude of paradoxes that sum up Curacao. The farm came with a store, where I stocked up on aloe-based moisturizer, a scrub and body cleanse. Great stuff, stuffed with pure, fresh-off-the-farm aloe, at prices that one can only dream of in New York ($6 for the most delicious body scrub that, two years on, still has plenty left.)
The highlight of my trip to Curacao had to be a trip to the relatively uninhabited northwestern part of the island. Here, there are a series of lagoons and coves where the sky-blue waters of the Caribbean reflect off dramatic cliffs carved from millions of years of erosion.
We traveled to Blue Cove, which is ruled over by a middle-aged (but in great shape!) sea salt of Dutch extraction, most recently married to a native. With children and dogs scurrying underfoot, we put on our snorkeling gear and planted ourselves in a small boat.
Unfortunately, the waters were considered too rough that day, but I was not going to waste my Caribbean adventure, so I plunged into the water and swam back to shore.
The views from the boat, however, were wondrous. The captain knew every inch of the seawall and explained some of the history (every inch of Curacao is loaded with hundreds of years of events). The photo here shows some of the cannon left over from one or another of the occupations.
This whole part of the island is dotted with coves, inlets and estuaries, many of them deserted or nearly so. If you are in a car, don’t be afraid to go off the main road and explore.
Where to Stay: The Renaissance
The Renaissance Curacao is located in Willemstad, across the bridge from major shopping but steps away from a historic fort and some other interesting sites. It has its own private beach overlooking the Caribbean with all of the amenities. There is also a rather tony shopping area adjacent to the hotel.
The rooms are spacious and modern. But the main attraction may be the Rif Fort, which has essentially been incorporated into the hotel. This 19th century fort was used during the Second World War as an important station to intercept and send radio messages to the allies.
There are several restaurants located within the complex serving a variety of cuisines.